In 1993, two giants of Japanese cinema met for the first time to share their insights and struggles in making movies. "Miyazaki Meets Kurosawa" was broadcast on Japanese television in 1993, one month after the release of Akira Kurosawa's final movie, Madadayo. Hayao Miyazaki's most recent feature film, Porco Rosso, was released the year before.
This famous interview has never been shown in the West, and has only been released to Japanese home video once - as part of a massive Studio Ghibli LaserDisc box set released in 1996. Similar box sets of the Ghibli movies were also released on VHS and Video CD (VCD), but the "Miyazaki Meets Kurosawa" program was not included on those formats. For this reason, the LD box remains the most valuable and expensive piece of Ghibli merchandise ever created.
Thankfully, this 1993 broadcast was preserved on videotape, and uploaded to YouTube for our enjoyment. The video has been split into ten segments, and, unfortunately, parts 3, 8, and 9 have been removed due to copyright dispute (presumably the television network). But we are more than happy to enjoy the footage that still remains. I especially enjoy the TV commercials at the very beginning, preserved in all their Japanese wackiness.
Thanks to Nausicaa.net and Yuto Shinagawa, an English language transcript has been made available. According to notes on another web forum, the transcript begins at 06:58 of the first video, when Miyazaki and Kurosawa are seated in their chairs. The first four minutes of small talk at the front door of Kurosawa's house, sadly, remain untranslated. Bear in mind, once again, that we are presently missing three segments to this video.
I have assembled the available YouTube videos into a single playlist, which appears above. The available English transcripts appear after the jump break. They are rather lengthy, so you may wish to print them out before watching. Ah, the old-fashioned way of watching foreign movies, with printed transcripts and VHS tapes! Just like old times. Enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime meeting of two cinematic giants: Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa.
Translator Notes: From the tone of the conversation and their language, I got the impression that Kurosawa is the mentor (interviewee) and Miyazaki is the student (interviewer), and for good reason, too. Kurosawa is a good 30 years older than Miyazaki, with just as many more years of film-making experience, dating back into the 1930s. This disparity is subtly manifested by the use of Keigo (polite language) on Miyazaki's part, and with a more casual vocabulary on Kurosawa's. Likewise, Miyazaki seemed a little tense all throughout this chat. Though, I don't blame him; Heck I'd be nervous sitting across either of these guys.
MIYAZAKI - As a film-maker, I suppose the hardest thing for me to deal with are questions regarding my own work. It's as if they expect me to have been involved in every aspect of the movie.
KUROSAWA - Like when they ask you to say something to the audience on stage. . .you really don't have anything to say, right?
MIYAZAKI - Right, and it's especially irritating when someone asks something like, "What's the theme of the movie" [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Yeah, those are really inconvenient.
KUROSAWA - I agree, I really don't know how to respond to questions like "how do you feel about this work of yours" or something.
MIYAZAKI - That's when you're supposed to take on an air of confidence: "This is my work; how 'bout it!". . .is what you're supposed to say. But me, I'm more like "Uh oh, I am in deep trouble!" And I start to feel the pressure pile on top of me like a mountain. The truth of the matter is, I'd rather just be hiding under some rock until all the excitement dies down [Laughs]. But that's really when you're supposed to be speaking out about your own work isn't it? Is that how you feel? [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - The thing is, you've already seen the movie countless times to make all the edits, so. . .you really don't feel like watching it anymore.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] I know exactly what you mean.
KUROSAWA - Right?
[Moves onto discussion about Kurosawa's most recent movie, Maadadayo (1993)]
KUROSAWA So what are your thoughts on Maadadayo?
MIYAZAKI - The tiny room [~7.5 sq ft] that the couple lives in. . .that was really wonderful. And the scene when the guests come to visit. . .the mannerism of the Misses as she served the tea - placing it on the shelf first, and then offering it to the guests. . .I was already impressed by that point. [Laughs]. Those sensible mannerisms are something that people like me completely lack in. She'll step out of view for a second, and we don't quite see what's there. . . but the fact that her presence is so subtle and un-awkward, even in such a small room is. . . .when exactly did the Japanese loose that kind of touch? [Laughs].
KUROSAWA - I agree; Kagawa-kun did such a splendid job this time. It's funny because she's not mentioned much in the book. . . [Note, it is common for more respected individuals to refer to younger ones with a -kun suffix regardless of their sex]
MIYAZAKI - Oh, is that so? So it was all your. . .
KUROSAWA - No it's not that as much as it is me relying on her talent. . .for example, remember how they offer to build the professor a new house, which he adamantly refuses to accept; and then later, he says something like. . . "you know, a pond would be nice." Well. . .she doesn't want to leave Mr. Hyakken there, nor stay there herself. So you might've noticed that she glances over and breathes a little sigh of relief before stepping outside [I apologize; I don't know what he's referring to here]. That's how good her acting is. Her reaction was extremely well done. I was really impressed by that.
MIYAZAKI - Oh I thought you were just depicting a man's dream. [Laughs].
KUROSAWA - No no. . .I just left everything up to Kagawa-kun. In fact, I wasn't even paying attention to her during the filming. . .complete confidence. I kept a careful watch on the other actors. . .but not Kagawa-kun. I told her afterwards and her response was "oh golly, no!" or something like that.
MIYAZAKI - . . .[Laughs].
KUROSAWA - That's how it is.
[Shows above clip from Maadadayo]
MIYAZAKI - Uhm, you know, I'm really envious of the people in the live action business - the osake at the end of the day must taste really really good.
KUROSAWA - Oh absolutely. Especially if we're filming on location, we'll just start drinking right there at the end of the day.
MIYAZAKI - Well in the animation business. . .the osake at the end of the day isn't that good. [Laughs]. Doesn't relieve any of the stress. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Dinner time is a lot of fun too. We usually have a big staff, so we can't necessarily accommodate everyone at the same hotel. But with the ones that do stay with us - the main cast and staff - it's always a pleasure socializing with them during dinnertime. I always tell people that it's then that I truly fulfill my role as director.
MIYAZAKI - See that's what we're so jealous about. For us, it's only when we finish. . . and when we're about to start [on a film] that we get to drink and celebrate. That's it. Everything during the actual production. . . is like rowing a boat [Laughs and pretends to row boat].
KUROSAWA - Right, right. Tezuka-kun was saying the same thing wasn't he?
MIYAZAKI - Yes, it's actually bad to relieve all the stress. You really need to maintain a certain level of anxiety.
KUROSAWA - We try to have fun while we work. . .while we film, and it shows on their face when they perform. So I always tell my staff, "don't be in a bad mood, because your facial expressions will show it. Let's have some fun." We try to have some good laughs.
MIYAZAKI - [I think this is what he said]. I guess it's not good for me to be drawing when I'm having to fight back yawns and complain about stiff shoulders. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Well you really don't have a choice with animation.
MIYAZAKI - I noticed that when we're working on an uplifting film with a lot of smiles, the animators tend to be smiling when they draw -- because it's important to make the facial expressions yourself. And at the same time, if we're making a serious movie, people tend to have serious expressions when they draw.
KUROSAWA - [Laughs]
MIYAZAKI - When you walk into the studio, there's this staleness to the atmosphere, almost as if there's some big dark entity somewhere. . . and as we make more and more films over the years, it intensifies until people start saying things like "that corner over there is haunted," or "you'll get nightmares if you sleep right here" or those kinds of rumors [Laughs]
MIYAZAKI - Our job is about being shackled to our desk. . .the consequence being we keep getting fatter and don't get any healthier. [Laughs]
MIYAZAKI - The last scene in 'Yume' by the river. . .you really found the perfect spot for it!
KUROSAWA - Yeah, we did a lot of searching. One thing about that scene is that in order to be able to film the moss on the bottom of the river, we couldn't let the sky reflect off the top surface of the water. We had to use these huge cranes to drape blackout curtains over the set.
MIYAZAKI - Ah. . .
KUROSAWA - The same goes when we have greenscape against a blue sky - the blueness ends up dominating and it completely messes up the colors.
MIYAZAKI - I'll be honest. Seeing that one scene really made me wish I had gone into the live action business. In reality, I wouldn't be worth anything once I'm on the set, but still. . .About the waterwheels in that scene.
KUROSAWA - Only about. . .three of those waterwheels were actually water-driven. The rest were just turned by the people hiding inside.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] People? I thought they were motors.
KUROSAWA - We'd be finished filming for the day and uh. . ."Wait a minute, is that guy still turning?"
MIYAZAKI - [Big Laugh] Poor guy! [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - [Laughs] And he's still there, cranking that thing with everything he's got! And here we are, getting ready to pack up and leave.
MIYAZAKI - Making a movie that depicts even the immediate past. . . it seems like it would end up costing an unbelievable amount of money.
KUROSAWA - Right, it costs a huge amount of money!
MIYAZAKI - That sloping street in Maadadayo. . . when I heard you constructed that on the set, the only thing I could say was, "that's extreme!"
KUROSAWA - That. . . might've been the most expensive thing. . . that sloping street. We had to haul in all the dirt with an insane number of trucks.
[Shows clip of soldiers marching down the sloping street in Maadadayo]
KUROSAWA - And afterwards, we had to flatten in out again. I told them to leave it as is, but they apparently needed to use the set for something else so. . . I know it's exorbitant, but whether or not there's a hill there makes all the difference in the world.
MIYAZAKI - A huge difference, right.
KUROSAWA - But the biggest hassle is having to wait for the dirt and gravel to settle, so it looks all natural. It's not enough to just drive over it with a roller; it has to be walked on by human foot. So as people trample over it over the course of a few days. . . actually more like a half a month, and as they go about their daily work on top of it. . . the gravel eventually settles. Wooden fences too. . . rain drops bounce off the surface at first but eventually. . . you know. Newly constructed sets just don't cut it; you have to give it some time.
MIYAZAKI - I see. . . it makes me impatient just thinking about it. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - The burning castle in Ran (1985) was actually constructed within view of here. . . right over there. Its construction had to be authentic in that we couldn't set a fake mock-up on fire. . . it would just be too obvious. That castle kept burning for at least half a day after we filmed it.
MIYAZAKI - What a waste. . . [Laughs]
[Shows clip of burning Castle in Ran]
[Shows on screen Kurosawa's various image board drawings, which gradually fade into their respective scenes in the movie]
[Miyazaki flips through a book of image board drawings]
MIYAZAKI - It must be a lot of work!
KUROSAWA - Well, not as much as you'd think.
MIYAZAKI - Really?
KUROSAWA - They're just quick sketches; I don't put too much effort into them.
MIYAZAKI - It seems as if you already had an actor/actress in mind when you sketched these. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - When I first start drawing, they don't resemble the actual actors/actresses, but I start having some fun by making them caricatures.
KUROSAWA - You'll see that I have a lot of drawings for scenes with rain. It's because that segment was all filmed without any cuts. And so making all these drawings really helped me work out the camera angles of each scene. So not only do they help you convey your thought-picture to the rest of the staff, it makes you aware of the tiny details within each scene -- what do they buildings in the background look like, what are they wearing, and so forth. It teaches you a lot of things.
MIYAZAKI - Like this drawing right here. I'd be thinking "that building over there is gonna cost a lot to build!" [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Well, you just have to accept the fact that movies cost a lot to make.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing] It's just that I tend to be cheap like that.
KUROSAWA - If we were to have to make, say, burnt rubble, the ground itself has to be black with all the ash. And it's such an impossible task to have to do so, that we decided to make the set on the side of Mount Fuji itself. So in terms of having to cover everything with ash, it really made things easier. But to create the burnt rubble, people were just scattering some charred wood on the ground. But you see, that's not good enough. I asked them, "what did the house look like originally? It doesn't make sense for the foundation to have burned away too." So I made them draw up blueprints from the ground up. "There must have been pillars here. There was a shed here right? And a kitchen here, so let's put in some piping for the faucet. Is this a brick house? What does a brick house look like when it crumbles?" And as you work out these details, the set becomes noticeably more realistic, and your job becomes more interesting. The audience won't necessarily pick up on those details, but they'll definitely feel the difference.
KUROSAWA - Often times, you'll see dust devils amid the rubble. Well, we asked ourselves how we could make one, and as it turns out, there's a special field for those kinds of special effects -- we used a series of fans to pull it off. Those kinds of thing really make your job interesting.
[More scenes from the movie accompanied by storyboards]
MIYAZAKI - Up until a certain era, Japanese architecture. . .cityscape had a certain ambience. This is my opinion but. . .that image seems to have disappeared. [I couldn't quite catch what he said next]
KUROSAWA - In Seven Samurai -- you can't hear it now because the sound is all deteriorated, but -- we really had a hell of a time with the sounds of the Sengoku-era [1467-1567]
MIYAZAKI - I can imagine. . .absolutely.
KUROSAWA - I'm sure there were blacksmiths.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And peddlers too, but not like the ones from the Edo-era [who'd holler at passerbys]. Maybe they'd mumble in a low voice: "Abura. . .abura. . ." ["Oil. . .oil. . ."].
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - We had one instance: "Wow, this clip right here sounds really Sengoku-era-ish. I like it; let's use it. . . where'd you get it?" "Uh, I just [Laughs] dragged around a steel pipe."
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] Ambient sounds. . .those are the hardest.
KUROSAWA - With optical sound recording, which is what we had for Seven Samurai, you can see the modulation of the screams each time someone is killed -- it has a distinct shape. Unfortunately a recorded scream just isn't effective enough, so I drew in the modulation myself, by hand. And the end result is a scream that doesn't even sound like it came from a human, really. . .
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing] You were really having fun weren't you!
KUROSAWA - So every night, I'd give these clips to the sound editor next door and he'd be like. . ."what in the world is this sound?!" "I'm drawing the modulation you see." "What?"
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing]
KUROSAWA - And all those sounds are in the movie. . .any time someone gets killed by a sword.
KUROSAWA - It's really peculiar. Machine gun fire looks like a square, a triangle and a circle all connected together - "rat tat tat tat." You can almost tell what kind of sound it is by looking at the modulation.
MIYAZAKI - If we're working on a movie with a foreign setting, and I come across a scene of a bustling city. . .I am at a complete loss. [Shows clip from Kiki's Delivery Service where Kiki triggers a big traffic jam in the streets of Koriko]. I'll ask the person in charge of sound effects to do some research on antique cars, but it's hopeless. I'll bring in a recording thinking "this'll do," but no, it's a dead giveaway that it's Tokyo. These days, it's almost impossible to even record bird chirps without it being contaminated by the sound of cars in the background. You have to go to some deserted island; but there, the wind is too loud.
KUROSAWA - We have a very talented staff member that does our sound effects - Minawa-kun. He'll pay attention to the slightest details. Even if it's the sound of rain, you'll hear it change as the scene changes. People like him are the true "En no shita no chikaramochi." [The strongman underneath the stage; people that do deserving work but receive little credit]. If you respect those small details, then the audience will definitely feel the difference.
[Shows clip from Maadadayo]
KUROSAWA - One of the settings for our movie -- the "Oichini [ah one two]" drug salesman scene -- if you recall, is a rectangular room. What we'd do is use three cameras, all on one side of the room to film everything from start to finish. . . after which we'd move the them to another side of the room, switch out the lenses, and film the scene over. We'd do this three times. . .from all four directions. So in the end, there'd be 36 cuts that we had to look through during editing. . .just for one scene.
MIYAZAKI - That's what boggles my mind. How do you pick which cuts to use?
KUROSAWA - Pretty much on a first come first serve basis for me.
MIYAZAKI - Is that so?
KUROSAWA - You just skim through them really quick. . ."toss. . .keep. . .toss," so that all you have to do in the end is just string together what's left. That's all there is to it.
MIYAZAKI - Well yes, but. . .[Laughs]
KUROSAWA - So we might have one segment that seems like it's going to be a big hassle. . .perhaps take days to film. . .but ends up taking only half a day -- from morning to 3 o'clock later that day. The same goes with editing -- we'd be expecting a big mess, when in fact, we'd be finished by 3 o'clock the same day, only to have everyone go, "what?!"
[Shows clip from Maadadayo]
KUROSAWA - Battle scenes too. When the cavalry makes a charge or something. . .we film it three times with three different cameras, each time with different lenses. So in the end, we'll have 9 cuts, and all you have to do is string together the good ones. It's not that hard. Aside from that. . .when someone falls off a horse. . .gets shot and falls of a horse. . . we'll do a special take afterwards for those types of scenes. And all you have to do is throw that clip in at the right moment, and that's it. [Pause] And. . .if you run out of cuts, just flip the film over. . .
[Takes a while to get it; Big Laugh]
KUROSAWA - Yeah, just flip it over and now the guy is running from that side to this side. Hey, you'll never notice the difference.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing] Even if they're carrying their swords on the wrong side? [Usually, the left so they can draw it with their right hand]
KUROSAWA - No you won't notice. . .because. . .it's only when the guy falls off the horse. It's really absurd if you're paying close attention. . .with the sword on the wrong side and all. You should notice it, but. . .well. . .[Pause] you just don't.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - You know how Mifune's fight scenes are really intense. Well one time, we were editing one of those scenes and had to stop the reel because someone came in to ask a question. And that's when I happened to look down at the film and notice that. . . he's not visible on the film itself.
MIYAZAKI - Huh. . .
KUROSAWA - He's nothing but a blur on each of those frames. . .and you can't really see his face either. Only when you play back the film do you actually see Mifune in combat. That's how fast he's moving. That's why those fight scenes are so intense. Also, when you spend a lot of time editing those scenes, you get the impression that it's going to be very lengthy, but no. . .it's really really short. I'd say the film itself is about 20 feet. . .no more than 20 feet. Even then, I feel as though I've seen plenty, and that's because I'm so nervously focused onto the screen.
MIYAZAKI - [Say's something about the audience's perception, but I'm not sure what he meant]
KUROSAWA - Right, right.
[Shows clip from Tsubaki Sanjuro (1962)]
MIYAZAKI - Do you make these [storyboard] drawings after you finish writing the script?
KUROSAWA - Most of them, yes. . .but there are a few that I draw while I'm still writing the script. I'll sometimes come across old sketches on the back of an envelope or something.
MIYAZAKI - [Looking at the drawings] Really good.
KUROSAWA - Huh?
MIYAZAKI - You're really good
KUROSAWA - Huh?
MIYAZAKI - You are really good [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Nawww, I really don't think. . .
MIYAZAKI - You don't think so? I. . .
KUROSAWA - Well the funny thing is. . . I was supposed to be an artist when I was young. My dream was Paris -- to open my own art shop. Mr. Umehara would always walk up and compliment my drawings whenever I'd be painting outside. It was with his and Mr. Cardin's support that I eventually got the chance to put some of my drawings on display at an art exhibition overseas. And to my surprise, I was later invited to give a talk at the Louvre Museum. "But sir, I'm not an artist!" was my response. So oddly enough. . .my dreams did come true.
MIYAZAKI - It sure did!
KUROSAWA - "Your style is really interesting," is what Mr. Umehara used to always say, and we wondered why. Well, after much discussion, we figured out it's because they [the paintings] aren't intended to be very high quality paintings when I draw them. They're just meant to give my staff a feeling for the scene, and nothing more, so they tend to be a little reckless in style. There might be some that are draw sensibly. It depends; I'll draw with whatever I have on me at that moment.
MIYAZAKI - [Flipping through more drawings] From the sound of your stories, the live-action business sounds like a lot of fun.
KUROSAWA - Huh?
MIYAZAKI - Live-action sounds like a lot of fun. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - It sure is. For example, if there's going to be a film shoot the next day, I want to get out there as early as possible. Though, my assistants probably don't like it when I come in early because they'd rather not have to deal with me. For them, a good day is one where I take my time coming into work. So a lot of the time, you'll find me waiting impatiently at home.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - Everyone has a lot of fun, really. I always tell my people, "no matter how grueling things may be at first, you'll eventually start to enjoy it if you just keep at it. Once you reach that state, you'll be putting in a lot of effort without evening knowing it." And it's true. I might say "ok, that's good enough," but their response will be "just a second. . .one more thing" They're that immersed in their work. Conversely, if you let things slide thinking "well, this won't be in view of the camera," then there's no end to how lazy you can get. You either give it your all, or don't even bother.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And sometimes, ridiculous things happen because of it. If you recall Hachi-gatsu no Rapusodi [Rhapsody in August, 1991], there's a field across the house. Well, long before any filming takes place, the first thing we do is ask the local farmers to plant the appropriate crops in each of the fields. You know, "pumpkin fields here. . ." and so forth. All this so that by the time we come back, all the crops will be fully grown. You just can't plant these things at the last moment and expect them to look natural. Well one time, I look down on what was supposed to be a pumpkin patch and "wait a minute, these are gourds!"
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] Mixed up the seeds did they?
KUROSAWA - "I told you, the gourd goes here on this shelf in the kitchen. The field out there is supposed to be pumpkin!" But in the end, we figured that it would all get covered with leaves, and that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference anyway. People got the idea to claim their own gourd by writing their name on it, so they could take one home afterwards, and make them into ornaments or whatever. They all grew up to be pretty big. So yeah, we had a big laugh over that - "what kind of fool plants gourds in a field?"
MIYAZAKI - When you're recruiting your staff for a movie, do you just announce it and have people flock to you?
KUROSAWA - No. . . in my case, most of my staff members are people that I've worked with for a very long time. When I announce a new movie, it's the usual gang that rushes in to help. Otherwise, I don't think it would go so smoothly. "Man, have you lost a lot of hair." That's how long I've known some of the people. Like Takao Saito, our cameraman who I just refer to as Taka-bou (little Taka). . .he's already sixty. It's just that I've known him from when he was that little, and the name stuck through all these years.
MIYAZAKI - And the cameraman's assistant. . .Taka-bou-san gets to pick?
KUROSAWA - Yes, he makes those decisions. So everyone works their way up the ranks. In that sense, people will gather around if I holler. You know, "we're gonna start filming in however many hours so have everything ready to go by then." I'm pretty meticulous when it comes to planning and preparation, so I tend to spend more time than most. If the filming doesn't go smoothly, it's usually because you didn't spend enough time getting everything ready. You do your homework, and everything goes smoothly.
MIYAZAKI - In the old days when movie studios were in much better shape, we could afford to put up a fight against movie companies. That is, even if we went over-budget. . .even if we didn't get along at all, we could still manage to squeeze the funding out of them to make movies.
KUROSAWA - That was exactly what happened when we were working on Seven Samurai. It was taking a whole lot longer than it was supposed to. So much so that we were expecting them to cut us off at any moment. In fact, we hadn't filmed a single scene from the last battle because of it. And just as we expected, we had a few visitors come in from Toho: "We'd like to see what you have so far." "But sir, we haven't filmed the most important part of the movie." "I don't care; just show us what you have." "Sir, it's already February. If it starts snowing now, we'll be in big trouble when it comes to filming the rest of the movie. Are you sure about this?" "Yes, let's see it." So we spent an entire week editing what we had of the film so far. And we showed it to them, up towards the end, where Kikuchiyo runs up the roof where the flag is. . .you know, "ta ta ta tee ta ta ta. . .[flutter] [flutter]" right? "[Points] There they come there they come!" and then. . .blank, goes the screen.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughing]
KUROSAWA - "[With a confused and impatient look] so what happens next. . .?" "We told you, we don't have a single scene filmed for the rest of the movie." So they all gathered around. . .mumbled something and then came back to us and said "Go ahead, film whatever you need. . .please."
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And that's when it started snowing. We all yelled, "Told you so! That's what you get!" and then proceeded to have big binge back at my place later that night.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - As luck would have it, it snowed pretty heavily that night. We had to bring in the fire department and spend an entire week melting all that snow. Melting the snow over an area that used to be rice paddies to begin with. . . the muck was unbelievable. That might be part of the reason why those scenes were so dynamic.
MIYAZAKI - Indeed! [Laughs]
[Shows clip from Seven Samurai]
KUROSAWA - You know, I really liked that bus in Totoro.
MIYAZAKI - [Gleefully] Thank you.
[Miyazaki seems to be at a loss for words here]
KUROSAWA - Those are the kinds of things that people like me in this business can't do, and that's something I'm really envious about.
MIYAZAKI - The thing is, I grew up in the city. . . in a time right after the war. . .when my only perception of Japan was that it was an impoverished and pitifully hopeless country. [Laughs]. At least that's what we were always told. It was only after I went overseas for the first time that I started appreciating Japan's natural environment. That being the case, it's funny that I keep wanting to make movies with a foreign [western/European] setting. I made Totoro because I felt the need to make a movie that takes place in Japan.
[Shows the Mei-bound Catbus scene from Tonari no Totoro (1988)]
MIYAZAKI - Lately, I've been wanting to make a Jidai-geki [period dramas]. Man is it hard! I don't even know what to do!
KUROSAWA - What I think is really interesting about the Sengoku-era [1467-1567] is that. . .it's perceived to be a time when, for example, one had to be loyal to his lord and obey similar moral and ethical codes. But in actuality, those only came into existence during the Tokugawa Shogunate [Edo-era; approximately 1603-1867] as an attempt to maintain some degree of order [and peace for the Tokugawa family]. The Sengoku-era, on the other hand, was quite the opposite -- people had a lot of freedom then.
[The word KUROSAWA - uses next is ambiguous; "shujin" can either mean man of the house (husband) or landlord; below are two plausible translations based on these two different definitions]
KUROSAWA - (first translation): "This husband of mine. . .he's no good." If that's what she thought, then she would've, you know. . . [walked out on him]. . .without so much as a second thought.
KUROSAWA - (second translation): "Our landlord. . .he's no good." If that's what they thought, then they would've, you know. . .[revolted]. . .without so much as a second thought.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - And that's the kind of environment that spawned people like Hideyoshi [1536-1598]. They're free-thinkers. "You must be loyal to your husband" -- that wasn't the case then. If he wasn't worthy, then you could just abandon him. That's what it was like. I think it would be really interesting if you could portray that.
MIYAZAKI - Hmm. . .
KUROSAWA - Shakespeare might be uniquely British, but actually. . .Japan did have people like Macbeth during that era. You'd be surprised how easily you could make a Japanese story that parallels something out of Shakespeare. Yeah, why don't you do a Japanese Shakespearean Jidai-geki? There are a lot of good stories.
MIYAZAKI - [Pause, perplexed laugh]
KUROSAWA - Yeah?
MIYAZAKI - Well, let's start with what they ate. . .what they wore.
KUROSAWA - We do have records of those. . .like menus
MIYAZAKI - What about the Muromachi-era [encompasses the Sengoku-era, also known as the Ashikaga-era; 1333-1573]
KUROSAWA - Muromachi is. . .a good period.
MIYAZAKI - It gets a little fuzzy in the Nanboku-cho [early years; 1336-1392]. That and the Taiheiki [collection of war tales]. . .everything becomes a big mess.
KUROSAWA - Yeah, it gets more difficult the further back you go. If it's the Tale of the Heike [Part of the Taiheiki], then we have good records of those.
MIYAZAKI - The utter devastation of Kyoto towards the end of the Heian-era [794-1185], as depicted in the Houjouki [Tale of the Ten-Foot Square Hut] -- earthquakes, great fires, dead bodies everywhere. . .rushing back from Fukuhara [modern day Kobe area] only to find your estate in complete ruins. . .
KUROSAWA - You mean Rashomon's time period. That's interesting too.
MIYAZAKI - Watching it as a kid, I remember it being a really scary movie! [Laughs]. For me, the movies that stay on my mind aren't the uplifting ones, but rather the ones that depict the realities of survival.
KUROSAWA - Akutagawa-san has a lot of novels [aside from Rashomon] that depict that time period. Remember that the Rashomon written by him is completely different from Yabu no Naka [from which the movie was originally adapted] -- remember the old lady upstairs who's stealing the hair from the corpse?
MIYAZAKI - Right, right.
MIYAZAKI - It seems as if movies these days don't deal with as wide of a time frame as they used to.
KUROSAWA - Yes, and that's because. . .well first of all, even if you wanted to make a movie of that era, you'd have a lot of trouble finding a good filming location.
MIYAZAKI - That's very true. Power lines everywhere! [Laughs].
KUROSAWA - Places like the Ikaruga no Miya Palace [7th century] were built in the middle of a cedar forest. Those trees were huge [Gestures] and that's why they could manage to build such a wooden structure. Nowadays, there's not a single one left! That's how much things have changed.
MIYAZAKI - [Nodding] Yes. . .yes.
KUROSAWA - For Maadadayo (1993), we had access to many of the clothes from that era [1940s]. . .like suites. But if you and I try to wear them, they won't fit at all; we've gotten bigger.
MIYAZAKI - Oh I see.
KUROSAWA - But if you look at the armor from the Battle of Okehazama , or something, they're noticeably bigger. Clothes from the Sengoku-era are big.
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs] Are you saying that we got smaller during the Edo-era [1603-1867]?
KUROSAWA - [Nod] Our physique undoubtedly deteriorated during the 300 years under Tokugawa. At first, I didn't think such a drastic change was reasonable, or even possible. But when you look at the clothes from the early Showa-era [pre WWII] and compare it to those of today. . .in just 40 years, look at how much we've changed. They just don't fit!
MIYAZAKI - [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - So we had to find fabric that matched the original and tailor new ones based on that. It was a big hassle.
MIYAZAKI - When it comes to making a Jidai-geki, I just keep running in circles. . .and never actually come close to realizing that goal. People ask, "so what's your next project?" to which I'll respond, "Jidai-geki!" I've been saying that for the past 10 years! [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - In Seven Samurai, we were originally going to chronicle the everyday life of a particular samurai. And as you mentioned earlier. . .he'll wake up in the morning, eat something for breakfast, perhaps go to the Edo Castle. . .but what exactly would he do there, and what would he do for lunch? We don't know any of the details. There's no way we can write a script like that.
MIYAZAKI - Right. . .right.
KUROSAWA - It's actually easier to find earlier written records than it is to find those of the Edo-era. We did a lot of research, and that's when we came across an account of a village hiring samurais to become the only village spared from rebel attacks. "Hey, let's do this." And that's how it started. Of course, once we got to work on it, we just let our imagination run wild. Our producer asked, "what about the title?" and I said, "well, it's about seven samurai. . .hey, that's perfect!" "We're going with this, no matter what!"
MIYAZAKI - That's true! Movies that don't have a fitting title are no good. [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - That's very true. Although. . . we had a lot of trouble naming this one [Maadadayo].
MIYAZAKI - Oh really? [Laughs]
KUROSAWA - They were all too awkward sounding. Every day, I'd rack my brain over a title to the point where one day, I just blurted out "Maadadayo! [Not yet!]" My son said "hey, that works!" so we knew it was a keeper.
[Shows clip from Maadadayo]
Brief post-chat reflection and statement from Mr. Miyazaki during the credits:
"Whether a work is a masterpiece or. . .something more modest, I realized that they all originate at the same place -- an environment where people are constantly thinking and rethinking their own ideas. That is, we don't just lay back and wait for the ideas to come. . . contrary to what people might think. 'Regardless of what they think. . .or whether or not they like the way I do things, I'm gonna do what has to be done!' That's what's important. That's what I think he was saying. Now, you might inconvenience a lot of people along the way. . .but it's more important to live the way you're supposed to. I'll do my best. [Laughs]